Facing long odds coming into the game, the Huntington varsity girls’ soccer team turned in its best performance of the season, taking down two-time defending county champion West Islip, 1-0 before a spirited crowd at Blue Devil Stadium.
Freshman Marissa Stafford scored on a 20 yard strike to the upper left corner of the net off a back pass from senior Ryann Gaffney. The first half goal was all Huntington would need as the Blue Devil defense and goalie Anna Gulizio took it from there, stifling the Lions’ offense the rest of the way.
“Today our team was confident in our abilities and trusted in each other,” Gaffney said. “We stayed focused throughout the whole game and if we keep this mindset I believe we can make the playoffs.”
Huntington’s defense was led by Tara Wilson, Amber Stieve, Grace Connell and Christina Aureliano. The unit gave West Islip everything it could handle and when the Lions did manage to get off a shot, Gulizio stopped it. The teenager was magnificent, recording 14 saves on the sun drenched afternoon.
The victory was the Blue Devils’ third this fall. The team has some ground to make up if it wants to reach post-season play, but that remains the goal for Huntington and coaches John Walsh and Vinny Tannazzo.
“I think we have to focus on getting it out wide since we have players with strong throws,” said Stieve about the rest of the regular season. “With very fast forwards, any opportunity to get it up into the opposing team’s half is a great opportunity to score. We need to mainly keep our intensity up and focus on taking more shots to make it into the playoffs. We need to keep our heads in the game even when it doesn’t go our way.”
Despite scoring only one goal, Huntington offense was active. The Blue Devils were effective at getting the ball within scoring range and getting off shots. West Islip goalie Morgan Iacona made 12 saves to keep the Lions in the game.
“Today’s game was an awesome win for the team against one of our toughest opponents and I am very happy I was able to contribute,” Stafford said. “It was a great confidence booster for the team and I am excited for the upcoming games.”